Cheap school holidays: Keep the kids entertained on a budget

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When school holidays come along, there are plenty of cheap and cheerful things to do.

Hanging out at home

With some planning and creative thinking, there are ways to keep your kids busy at home.


Set up a tent, cubby or teepee in the backyard, or even inside.


Search online for easy recipes that kids can cook, help with or decorate. Invite people over to share their creations. Encourage the kids to make a scrapbook of their favourite recipes.


Create clues for the kids to find things hidden around the house or garden. Or get them to plan a hunt for someone else, with a map and clues.


Get kids to plant their own vegetables or herbs, either in the garden or in pots. Help them learn more about what they’re planting by taking them to visit a local community garden or garden shop, or by helping them do some research online.


Look around the house for things they could use for art and craft activities — anything from old socks and buttons to cardboard boxes and scrap paper.


Gather up all your old clothes or buy some from the op shop. As well as playing dress-ups, the kids could use them as costumes to perform their own plays or make short movies.


Join a local toy library or buy toys from op shops, second-hand markets, garage sales or online marketplaces.

Visit Toy Libraries Australia to find your local toy library.

Organise a toy swap with your friends. Most families have lots of toys their children no longer use.

Getting out and about

With a bit of planning, there are lots of outings that won’t blow your budget.


Libraries often have story sessions, and free activities for different ages during school holidays.

Check if your library has ebooks or free streaming of movies and TV shows. Some also offer free online courses or apps to learn a new language.


Museums and galleries often run free or cheap school holiday activities and programs: check their websites for details.


See what events your council, local clubs and shopping centres are running. Search online for ‘what’s on’ and for free festivals, concerts and other events in your local area or city.


Parks, playgrounds, gardens, bike paths, beaches and rivers all offer a great day out. If you can, explore places you’ve never been. Make a day of it by packing a picnic or letting the kids invite their friends.


For paid activities, check if there are any special deals on certain days of the week, for example, at the movies. Search online for discount vouchers and codes. If there’s a group discount available, tee it up with some friends. 


When you get home, encourage your kids to write a story, draw a picture or make a scrapbook about the outing. If they take photos or video while you’re out and about, they could make a short movie or slide show when they get home.

Involve your kids in budgeting

Even with the best intentions, costs can blow out during the holidays. Doing a budget beforehand can help keep things in check.

Use this as an opportunity to teach your kids about money and get them involved in setting up a holiday budget. Talk about what you want to do and how much it all costs.

You could plan the holidays with them, set a spending limit, and work out what you can do without going over this amount.

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